The CPM plenum ended in Kolkata on New Year's eve with a spot of glasnost. The media was let in with cameras into the last session - something that surely didn't happen at the last plenum 37 years ago. But the mini glasnost meant no press meet, no chance to ask questions. The result was a mad scramble by the media to speak to leaders as they left the venue. In the bargain, home truths slipped out.
Former general secretary Prakash Karat left earlier than others, giving the paparazzi the miss. "We are making a renewed emphasis on connecting with the masses. We feel we have lost some living links with the people because of other preoccupations," he said.
Sitaram Yechury, general secretary, and Manik Sarkar, the CPM's only chief minister in Tripura, were given rock star treatment, cameras pursuing them as they walked out of the plenum venue. Inside the plenum, the five-day focus was party organisation. Outside, a question asked ad nauseum to party leaders: Will CPM and Congress join hands to take on Trinamool in Assembly polls just months away?
"The basic issue in Bengal today is to restore democracy, civil liberties and the normal way of life that has been very grievously disrupted in the last five years under the Trinamool. And the people seem to want it," said Mr Yechury.
If Mr Yechury and Mr Karat have kept options open, not Mr Sarkar. "In our 21st congress, we have adopted a line that a Left democratic alternative to Congress and BJP is needed. Congress has not shifted its neo-liberal economic policy. From that you can well imagine what will be our stand," Mr Sarkar said.
The party may have worked out how to plug organisation loopholes at the plenum. But political debates are still on. The last word on a Congress-CPM alliance in Bengal is yet to be said.